Searching for spring in Philadelphia

     Jen Bradley's daughter and son searching for signs of spring. (Courtesy of Jen Bradley)

    Jen Bradley's daughter and son searching for signs of spring. (Courtesy of Jen Bradley)

    A few years ago, during one of those gorgeous 70 degree spring days, I decided to head out to a favorite trail and spend the whole afternoon there. Being a shutterbug, I grabbed my pocket camera, some snacks for the kids, and sunscreen.

    Forbidden Drive had gorgeous scenery all around, so we decided to hike for a bit and “look for spring.” My then three year old and his nearly two year-old sister were up for the challenge, and when my preschooler wanted me to take a picture of his first “find,” an idea was born.

    I started snapping photos of every sign of spring they discovered…from the puddles on the ground, to the gorgeous spreading tree starting to green up. Once they knew their observations were being recorded, they were really motivated to find more. It sparked great conversations about what was and what wasn’t a sign of spring. (We decided the many cars in the parking lot were a sign of spring, but trash on the ground might be a bit of a stretch.)

    If I had planned ahead, I’d have also brought along our trusty clipboard and some drawing/writing tools. My preschooler loved to take on the role of scientist, recording what he saw. But we relied upon our photos and memories of the day, of which there were plenty.

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    We saw dogs splashing in the creek, found a worm on the sliding board, chased after some butterflies, discovered flowers and seedlings, couldn’t shake our shadows, and even tracked fish in the fast-moving stream.

    Once we returned home, we put the pictures to work, and my preschooler and I set about creating a photo book. Since our pictures seemed publish-worthy, we opted for a photo book from an online shop.

    Many online photo printers now have book-making options. ArtsCow, Shutterfly, Picaboo, and Snapfish come to mind. These companies provide software and templates (just add photos and text) that make bookmaking a snap. Ours took about an hour total to complete.

    We went through the pictures on the computer together, sorted them into categories, and then started telling our story. My three year old was more than happy to narrate the entire book himself, but we made sure to put some quotes from our toddler in as well. My favorite was, “yook mommy, fwowa!” (Translation: “Look Mommy, a flower!”) Using their words and memories really made the book come to life. 

    I’m so happy we made this book when they were young. It captured a great sense of wonder and a magical moment in time. Magical simply because they were so awed by the big and little signs of the season all around them.

    The trails along the Wissahickon are a wonderful place to do a project like this. You could even repeat it for all four seasons — publish your own family series! The only downfall for us was a certain little boy requesting photo print-outs and homemade books about virtually everything he did, at which point I promptly introduced him to the additional wonders of the homemade book.

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